When I create a new desktop it has all the same crud on it that my original desktop has on it.

How do I create a new desktop that's empty, and use that as a new work area... like a new desktop?

The source of my confusion is that they're named "DESKTOPS", and given unique numbers, yet they completely fail to follow the ideas of their own metaphor:

Look at the names of these **DESKTOPS**

Desktop 1 is exactly the same as Desktop 2, only it's got the possibility of having different app windows in it. That's not a new desktop. It's the same desktop.

  • If you litter the desktop with files, folders etc, they will always follow you, because the Finder is always in the background.
    – Tetsujin
    Sep 2, 2015 at 15:31
  • Litter is a grotesque understatement. I'm more like an object sprayer. This inability to have true virtual and alternative desktops seems like a missed opportunity for those of us not into constantly organising files.
    – Confused
    Sep 2, 2015 at 15:33
  • Files only need organising once ;) i do know what you mean, but actually for many years they were called Spaces, to save getting them confused with 'desktops'. They're for putting distinct apps in, not creating further confusion from a file-sprayed multi-desktop scenario.
    – Tetsujin
    Sep 2, 2015 at 15:39
  • I can't help thinking they should have been called Views instead of Spaces. i.e. looking at the same desktop from a different perspective. View_1 through Photoshop and Notes, View 2 through Excel and Word, both looking through to the desktop beneath. But Spaces is definitely better than Desktops. ANYTHING is better than iteratively numbering them as multiple Desktops for this feature.
    – Confused
    Sep 2, 2015 at 16:01
  • 1
    The simple answer is you're 100% correct. (A) how they did it is ridiculous and (B) the wording they use in the feature name and doco, is ridiculous. You're Right.
    – Fattie
    Jan 3 at 18:17

3 Answers 3


@Confused I too had the same issue. I wanted different desktops for different projects. So, I made an Python/Applescript app which allows you to have multiple desktops in the "true sense" that you refer to:


It should serve your purpose, but please see the "Tips" sections for caveats with my approach. It works simply by moving files and folders from the Desktop to a storage folder, and recording their icon positions. This means that this desktop can be restored to exactly the same state later. There is still only one Desktop/ folder on the Mac, and Mission Control works just as it did before.

I now have about 20 different desktops and switch between them all of the time - great for productivity.

  • Why not just have a 'Desktop2' folder, instead of moving files in and out of the original 'Desktop' folder? Nov 1, 2020 at 7:55
  • I've tried the changing folders approach. It requires, as far as I can tell, that you restart Finder to change the Desktop contents. When you remove the Desktop folder, the icons disappear, but when you replace it, they do not reappear until I restart Finder. That takes several seconds and is uncomfortably slow to use whenever the whim strikes.
    – August
    Jan 10, 2021 at 2:03
  • 1
    @August, killing Finder is also not desirable if you have multiple Finder windows open, or if you are doing long file copying operations in the background. Symlinking a different folder for Desktop may not play well with applications like Dropbox.
    – edison1093
    Jan 11, 2021 at 9:53
  • I installed and explored Clarity as suggested in this answer. I was wrong; Clarity does not require restarting Finder. Rather than rename and replace the Desktop folder, it copies the contents of the Desktop folder to a backup folder, or several, "desktop1", "desktop2", etc, in your chosen location. @edison1093 uses a Dropbox destination, I presume so that he can use the same desktops on different machines. His method does not require restarting all open Finder windows as well. Various restarting-Finder methods took me 12-16 seconds to get all Finder windows back, while Clarity took 2-4 secs.
    – August
    Jan 11, 2021 at 20:59

Here's an easy shell script I wrote to implement multiple desktops (tested on High Sierra and Mojave). It does require root permissions to initially configure and works nicely when mapped to "hot keys" using Automator.

The only downside I've found is that you'll have to create an alias on the Finder sidebar to the folder containing the desktops, since the old "Desktop" Finder alias will only point to desktop1.

# chdt - Trivial script for multiple Deskops a la X-Windows for MacOS
#        (smoke and mirrors using rm and ln -s)
# Jeff Bloomfield - 2/23/2021
# [email protected]

# Setup Instructions:
# 1. Make the directory $DESKTOP_DIRS as $USER with rwxr-xr-x permissions.
# 2. As root, mv $HOME/Desktop $DESKTOP_DIRS
#    Root needed because of existing extended permissions "everyone deny delete".
#    You can see extended permissions with ls -led.
#    The mv should keep the directory permissions and ownership as they are.
# 3. As $USER, make the empty directories for your new alternate desktops in
#    Name the alternate desktop directories DesktopN, where N is the desktop
#    number (or character, I suppose) you intend to pass in chdt's argument.
# 4. You might want to give your alternate desktops the same extended perms as
#    your original Desktop directory. See ls(1) for pointers to more information
#    on this [squirrley] topic.
# 5. You can map chdt to hot keys using Automator workflow scripts.

#    Usage:
#       chdt N
#    where N is the desktop number or suffix
#    Example:
#       chdt 2
#    Changes the active desktop to the contents of 

PROG=$(basename $0)
DESKTOP_NAME=Desktop    # Used here to set the basename of the desktop
                        # as in Desktop1, Desktop2...DesktopN, etc.

# Catch some errors and exit with an error message:

# Warn me in case the OS does some sneaky things like recreate the Desktop
# directory or some other untoward behavior I don't know about yet.
if [ ! -L $DESKTOP_SYMLINK ]; then
    echo "$PROG: $DESKTOP_SYMLINK is not symlink or does not exist."
    exit 1
if [ ! "$DesktopNum" ]; then echo "$PROG: Missing desktop argument:"; \
                             echo "        $PROG desktop"
    exit 1

if [ ! -d $DESKTOP_DIRS/$DESKTOP_NAME${DesktopNum} ]; then
    echo "$PROG: Desktop${DesktopNum} is not a directory or does not exist."
    echo exiting...
    exit 1

# Do the work:
if ! /bin/rm $DESKTOP_SYMLINK; then
    echo "$PROG: Failed to remove symlink \"$DESKTOP_SYMLINK\""
    echo exiting...
    exit 1

if ! /bin/ln -s $DESKTOP_DIRS/$DESKTOP_NAME${DesktopNum} $HOME/Desktop; then
    echo "$PROG: Failed to create symlink $DESKTOP_DIRS/$DesktopNum -> $DESKTOP_SYMLINK"
    exit 1

sleep 1     # Avoid possible race conditions w/the Finder on fast machines
if ! killall Finder; then
    echo "$PROG: Failed to restart the Finder for possibly unknown reason to point to Desktop${DesktopNum}"
    echo exiting...
    exit 1

exit 0  #success

Files, folders, aliases, etc. on the OS X desktop remain "stuck" to all desktops assigned to that monitor. On a second monitor, the desktop will not be replicated from the first but again it will be repeated for all of its assigned desktops or spaces. Desktops are primarily useful for organizing apps and windows—not file system objects.

While I'm sure you have an intuitive understanding of how your proposal would work for 95% of your use case, I think there are a number of edge cases that would lead to very unpredictable behavior for many, many users (possibly even yourself).

  • 1
    That last paragraph is bizarre. Consider the desktop for what it is. A metaphorical space to place things and work on them. It's a workspace, just like the real world. A "DESK"top.
    – Confused
    Sep 2, 2015 at 15:44
  • 1
    In the real world, when I make a new desktop, it's specifically so I have a new desktop to work on. Not so that I'm working on a duplicate of the current Desktop. They way Apple's done this it should not be named a second, third or umpteenth desktop. They're providing virtual app screen spaces, not multiple desktops. It's a complete and horrid misnomer to name them as desktopS.
    – Confused
    Sep 2, 2015 at 15:46
  • 1
    The desktop isn't meant to be your collecting place for everything you can't be bothered to organize. For example, nothing defaults to being saved or download there. Just because it doesn't work the way you want it to work, doesn't make it unfathomable.
    – samh
    Sep 2, 2015 at 15:50
  • 1
    What would happen if you delete a desktop? Should its files be deleted? Should they be merged with an adjacent space? What if the files don't fit because the source and destination were both full? How is this workflow less confusing for the majority of users? Your proposal is far less fluid for what most people want—workspaces for windows (which is why the feature was originally called Spaces, I suppose). You object to the name change—I suggest you contact Apple with your feedback.
    – samh
    Sep 2, 2015 at 15:51
  • 1
    As for "deleting desktops", obviously if they're virtual realisations of the metaphor then you couldn't delete a desktop that's being used. relax.
    – Confused
    Sep 2, 2015 at 15:53

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